Crypto winter has arrived–and it’s chilly out there for the thousands of employees being laid off in response to the sector’s worst downturn in several years.
I should know. My cryptocurrency company is one of the many that had to reduce staff earlier this year when the crypto market tumbled. Simply put, we were overstaffed for slower-than-expected growth. The collapse also came at a time when we were transitioning away from retail to become a B2B company, so we no longer needed certain roles.
But the crypto industry’s loss is a potential gain for other employers in a range of industries that can benefit from the dynamism, autonomy, and analytical thinking skills that crypto natives tend to have in spades. The overall job market is resilient, and employers should give serious consideration to any crypto castaways that come their way.
New day, new cuts
Despite its short history, crypto is no stranger to sudden, painful bear markets that force firms to quickly cut their staffing costs. This one follows a three-year period of exuberant growth that saw Bitcoin and other tokens hit massive new highs, the influx of millions of retail investors, an explosion of new products and services, and a surge in hiring. The number of U.S. crypto job postings rose by 395% between 2020 and 2021, far outpacing the overall tech industry.
Then came the spring of 2022, when every day seemed to bring fresh news of major crypto job cuts. Coinbase cut about 18% of its workforce, or 1,100 jobs. Crypto.com cut about 260 jobs, and lending firm BlockFi shed about 160 people.
At Coinchange, we laid off almost 30% of our staff, dropping from 70 employees to about 50 over the course of April and May.
Although it appears the worst is over, I expect a trickle of job losses will likely continue until the market turns around. Like many of our crypto peers, we are no longer laying off staff, but we have allowed some open positions to go unfilled.
Being intensely growth-focused, crypto firms like ours overhired during the bull market in the scramble for more customers and a greater market share. Now that the air is coming out of the market, they need to cut staffing costs urgently to stay afloat and weather a downturn that could be intensified by the worsening economic outlook. In other words, hire slow, fire fast. Layoffs are painful, but we do what must be done to sustain and grow the business: prioritize long-term shareholder value over short-term pain.
Natural fits for crypto natives
The most natural home for dislocated crypto talent is arguably the startup world. People who have worked in crypto tend to be good at building things from scratch, taking ownership, and staying flexible.
The crypto industry demands people who can bootstrap their skills in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment without needing a playbook. That’s an ability that is highly relevant to startup companies in the tech sphere and other sectors.
Web3 applications will embed the use of blockchain and personal ownership in a wide range of online experiences, creating more demand for crypto-related skills and experience. For example, blockchain-based play-to-earn gaming is still going strong, drawing heavy interest from venture capital firms as it increasingly merges the worlds of video games and crypto.
Blockchain technology is also seeping into a broad range of other industries where former crypto employees could add value. Banks and fintech firms increasingly need employees with crypto experience and expertise for their digital asset initiatives.
Retailers need to understand and deploy blockchain solutions for payment gateways, greater transparency, and auditing. Several oil and gas companies have also implemented blockchain solutions to enhance their operational efficiency.
Employers don’t have to be in the fields of tech or developing blockchain applications to benefit from crypto refugees.
Many of the jobs cut have been in roles that were focused on winning and retaining customers, such as customer support/success, and marketing and sales positions. Others at risk will be employees involved in special side projects that don’t add much to the business’s core value. At Coinchange, we cut staff in the marketing, sales, and customer support divisions.
People who have worked in crypto in areas like marketing and customer success tend to be strong at explaining complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms, a highly desirable quality in all kinds of industries and roles. Prospective employers can assess those skills by asking applicants simple questions about the industry they have come from, such as “What is blockchain technology?” or “Explain Bitcoin to me.”
Crypto workers tend to be global in terms of their location and their outlook, which makes them fit into the post-pandemic hiring process that is becoming embedded in industries such as tech.
Employers should also consider that this is a time-limited offer to attract and embed crypto talent. Crypto as an industry isn’t going away—and we will quickly switch back to hiring mode when the next bull market gets underway.
Maxim Galash is the CEO of Coinchange.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.
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